Pop star singer Katy Perry has been found guilty of copying a song by a Christian rapper called Flame. Perry’s hit song Dark Horse was accused of being an imitation of Flame’s song Joyful Noise. The court ordered that Perry pay over $550,000 and that Capital Records, Perry’s record label, pay a larger sum of $1.2 million. Perry’s song Dark Horse spent four weeks at the # 1 position on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart early in 2014. Dark Horse was written by six song writers in total, all of whom were sued; Perry herself only wrote the lyrics to the song. The lyrics of the two songs are about very different topics. Joyful Noise is about the singer rejecting his older hedonistic attitudes in favor of spirituality and religion; in contrast, Dark Horse is about a hedonistic and addictive romantic relationship.
Despite the gigantic philosophical differences between the two songs, the jurors decided that two riffs from Joyful Noise were stolen and put into Dark Horse. Perry’s attorney claimed that there is no evidence that the writers of Dark Horse had access to the song Joyful Noise. Katy Perry is making an appeal to a higher court in order to overturn what she believes is an unjust decision. Musicians have been influencing each other for as long as music has existed; and there’s nothing wrong with allowing other artists to influence your art as long as you are also making something original happen in your work. In recent years, lawsuits have been increasingly common about songs allegedly being too similar to other songs. Now the question is, how much similarity is acceptable from a legal perspective?